Skip to main content

Candlelight Vigil: COVID-19 Deaths in Wisconsin Prisons

Monday, December 21, 2020 - 6:00pm - 6:30pm
Governor’s Mansion, 99 Cambridge Rd, Madison


Please join us on December 21 at 6:00 pm in Madison for a Candlelight Vigil to remember those who have died of COVID-19 in our state prisons.

Please join us for a Candlelight Vigil to remember those who have died of COVID-19 in our state prisons.

  • Monday, December 21
  • 6:00 - 6:30 pm
  • In front of the Governor's Mansion, 99 Cambridge Rd., Madtson, WI

We know that at least 19 people have died in Wisconsin prisons since the pandemic began. We believe there are probably more. The Department of Corrections only counts as COVID deaths those whose death is so determined by a medical examiner. If a person from prison is in the hospital for an extended period and dies there, the medical examiner is not necessarily called. The hospital simply reports a COVID death.

We know that, as of this week, almost HALF of all people in prison have tested positive for COVID-19, in contrast to less than 10% of the overall population. We have no way of knowing how many of them have become seriously ill, because that information is not reported to the public. At the same time, about 20% of Department of Corrections personnel have contracted the virus.

Last week, the Governor finally acknowledged the crisis on a Zoom call. He said the prisons “are not exempt” from the virus - he did not mention that the rates in prison are five times higher than elsewhere.

The Governor has not acted to offer clemency or to commute sentences to move very vulnerable people out of harm’s way, or to release very low-risk people so that others might have a chance to socially distance. His staff has said that the Governor's legal team is looking into it. It has been eight months since WISDOM and other groups began to warn about the special danger of COVID for people in prison. It has been four months since the Governor said he would “look into” possibilities for clemency and commutation. So far, the conversation seems to have gone no further than his “legal team.” It is really not a very difficult legal question. The Governor’s powers to grant pardons and to reduce sentences are crystal clear. It is a political question, a matter of whether the Governor wants to use those powers or not.

December 21 is the longest night of the year. Let us gather to pray for light and hope. It is not too late for the Governor to act. It is never the wrong time to pray and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in prison.

Join us if you can. If you cannot, please take a moment at 6 pm Monday to remember those who have died, those who are sick, and those who have the power and the responsibility to care for the people in our prisons.

Share this